What is the focus of our research?


MEMOIRS studies contemporary Europe by analysing the impact of colonial memories on the generation that came after the decolonization of Africa and the independence of the former colonies, held by Belgium, France and Portugal, of RDC, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Vert and São Tomé and Príncipe.


We focus on the post-memories of those who grew up and live in the three European countries, i. e. stories constructed at the juncture between public and private recollection that forms an intrinsic part of second-generation identity. Through interviews and comparative analysis of the cultures influenced by the postmemory of the colonial wars and the end of empire, Europe's colonial heritage will be reinterrogated. Today, these stories (though normally silenced by the invisibility of their subjects) surface in anonymous speeches and artistic representations, showing postmemory as an active legacy and pointing at the possibility of a shared European project.


Who are we studying?


The child of the empire is someone for whom the empire, the colonial wars and decolonisation are only a representation, because s/he has no first-hand knowledge of the events nor is s/he the author of first-hand testimony. Rather, the child is the symbolical inheritor of an open wound from which he or she draws up a narrative constructed from fragments of family narratives made up of discourses, snapshots, maps, letters, aerograms and other objects taken from the private domain and also from fragments drawn from public narratives.


Our informants never knew first-hand or have only very remote memories from childhood of the dying days of colonialism in the DRC, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe. They were not direct witnesses of the decolonization of these nations. However, they were marked by the process through their family histories and the context in which they grew up. To this day, the colonial past influences their worldview in different ways.


Today’s challenge is to fight for the decolonisation of the individual, in the figure of both the ex-colonised and the ex-coloniser, and to promote conditions for a mutually respectful, peaceful dialogue.


Which methodology do we follow?


MEMOIRS is an interdisciplinary and comparative project focusing on a more sophisticated theoretical understanding of postmemory in post-colonial contexts. It also sheds light on how inter-generational memories structure the identities of the three nations under analysis. MEMOIRS offers a framework for further studies in other European contexts.


MEMOIRS is conducting a series of coordinated interviews with the descendants of the generation involved in and affected by the decolonization processes of colonies held by France, Portugal and Belgium in Africa. It also analyses artistic representations by the children of empire as public displays of intergenerational memory.  To deal with the full complexity of its central question, the scope of the project is interdisciplinary, bringing together specialists in literary and cultural studies, history, sociology, anthropology, the arts and international relations.